Friday, May 13, 2016

Courageous Speech to Her School Board by An Upstate NY Teacher

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.--Coco Chanel

Something I certainly haven't been able to do with any ease up until these last two years. Still it is difficult. Especially when public or private voicings of discontent are viewed in our school community as whining, retaliatory, or even mean-spirited. As many of you here have witnessed, there's a tidal wave of emotions related to decisions made by our school
District that teachers and parents alike believe to not be in line with the educational mission of our district or best educational practices based on collective experience and research.

Many of us parents and teachers have been told publicly and privately that the board does not like to micromanage. While this can be appreciated on one level, I would still like an explanation as to why our board refuses to exercise their board authority which states" in all cases were laws and regulations of the state commissioner of education do not provide, permit, or prohibit, the board shall consider itself the agent responsible for establishing and appraising educational matters and activities."

On behalf of my fellow parents and colleagues I would like to re-offer some of the top educational matters and activities that are believed to be in need of appraising and establishing by our board.

1. Reinvest in the smaller class size model. This investment, is proven through research and even recommended by the state, especially in schools of high poverty. Great education dividends should be expected in the very near future if this were to be established. With such a fiscally prudent board, I believe it would be clear to you that investing monies on things like a district app or community education before taking care of the needs of our most vulnerable students would be the priority. I can tell you that many of my student's parents still use trac phones without internet support and would be excluded from using the resource anyway.

 Having 25 students in a fifth grade class such as my own is not the same as 25 in a primary grade. If it was not possible to reduce class-size in all grades the primary grades is where this practice should begin again.

2. We would also like to request that before approving line items such as instructional consultants or other programs into the budget that all teachers have been given an opportunity to be made aware of these new programs and support consultants that are to be purchased. Start with a teacher led committee then bring it to the table with all teacher's input. By doing this you will gain important insight and be able to offer your input before hiring or purchasing programs that will impact our already financially strained district. This would be an incredible collaborative opportunity. It is believed that this practice would save the district thousands of dollars.

3. Since you are responsible for establishing and appraising educational matters and activities, I would like to appeal to you to please return the offering of skills classes especially for algebra. I have never heard a reason for continuing the elimination of the one and a half and 2 yr courses that were meant to support those who struggle and need more time to master the skills and concepts. If we are to stay true to the Canajoharie central school vision statement then let's offer all of our students multiple pathways to success. Based on research, we are in the minority locally and statewide when it comes to this practice.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all act swiftly on the policy change you're voting on tonight which is to "carry out the educational mission of the district on behalf of the resident and the community in matters of education.

Thank you.